6 questions to ask to assess company culture

Mark Ashworth of Virti examines the importance of corporate culture and offers advice on how job seekers can assess it at the interview stage.

It is not surprising that the culture of a company plays a big role in the satisfaction and development of its employees. In fact, more than half of 5,000 people polled in a 2019 Glassdoor survey said company culture is more important than pay when it comes to job satisfaction.

“People leave managers, not companies” is a common phrase you’ll hear in the workplace, and it’s true. Just under half of UK employees have left their jobs because of their negative relationship with their boss, according to a 2019 survey.

An interview process is usually a small window into an overall organization. While you may be excited that the manager is hiring you, you should recognize that you will need the commitment of many stakeholders to get things done, or that your career path can continue under the leadership. from another leader. Ideally, then, you should find out if the qualities you love in this hiring manager are reflected throughout the company.

Of course, that’s easier said than done. For starters, while many companies like to brag about their unique or exceptional culture, it’s hard to find an agreed-upon definition or explanation of what this ubiquitous term really means.

Corporate culture stems from an organization’s mission, values, practices and beliefs. It is shaped by leaders, determines team behavior, and influences almost every aspect of the employee experience.

Trying to get a full picture of the real culture of a business before you work there is like trying to describe a foreign country before you visit it. However, there is an opportunity to cut the rhetoric and add some color to your corporate mental image: your interview.

Here are six questions that will help you delve into the reality of the corporate culture while making a good impression on your potential employer.

What qualities do you value most in your team members?

The answer you receive to this question will say a lot about a company’s priorities and how it works. It’s also one of the most powerful ways to determine if you’ll be a good fit for a business.

When your interviewers answer this question, first ask yourself if these are qualities you think you have, and then ask yourself if these are qualities you value in your colleagues. If the answer is yes to both, chances are your own values ​​are closely aligned – and that’s a good sign.

However, be sure to ask for clarification on subjective terms like ‘fun’ or ‘likable’, as well as catch-all terms like ‘commitment’ or ‘dedication’, as that could be a coded way of saying: “We expect you to work until 11pm every night and Sunday.

How do you help team members develop their professional skills and interests beyond their job?

By asking this question, you’ll learn exactly how seriously the company takes the retention and long-term growth of its team members.

Ideally, there should be regular, high-quality opportunities for all employees to broaden and deepen their knowledge and skills. These can include “lunch and learn” sessions, mentoring senior colleagues, conference tickets, or even paid time to devote to pursuing your own exciting projects.

Ultimately, you have to think about your own professional goals – will this company proactively help you achieve them?

How do you celebrate individual and team victories and how do you reflect on losses?

Celebrating progress towards business goals, whether large or small, is extremely important in building team morale, motivation, and camaraderie. Everyone loves to be recognized for their hard work and celebrating together is the perfect way to build positive relationships between teams and colleagues.

From annual company vacations or Thursday night drinks to rewards for new business victories, each company favors a different method of reflecting and celebrating shared accomplishments. After asking this question, you will be able to determine if the celebration is embedded in the corporate culture or if success is taken for granted. You can then decide if this is the way you prefer to celebrate success.

Just as important as recognizing and rewarding success is the maturity of the organization in thinking about what it could have done better. If failure to win an important contract is a sign of anger, blame, and recrimination, maybe this is something you want to know. If an organization handles failure with maturity and views it as a learning opportunity, then it’s a business that is more likely to be successful in the long run – and, quite possibly, a more rewarding and fun place to live.

How were the values ​​of the company chosen and what do they mean to you personally?

This is a nifty way to determine if the company is truly driven by its values, or if they are simply being implemented as part of the PR strategy. Hearing a more personal interpretation – ideally from two or more different people – will help you see beyond the clichés and understand what those values ​​really mean in the office.

Do not take it as a negative sign if there are variations in the interpretations. It is a healthy sign that independent thinking is encouraged in the business. Ideally, employers should speak confidently and positively about the company’s core values ​​and be able to provide examples of how they inform actions on a day-to-day basis.

What practical steps are you currently taking to promote diversity and inclusion?

If you want to make sure that your potential employer doesn’t just stand up for the principles of diversity and inclusion, this question is the way to find out.

A diverse team is a team of members of all races, genders, religions, ages, sexual orientations and nationalities, and an inclusive company has systems in place that make every employee feel comfortable and excel .

The company you’re interviewing for is unlikely to be fully diverse and inclusive – very few are. What matters is that they actively strive to become more inclusive and diverse, and that is a top priority for them going forward. Try to dig deeper into the practical steps they take and note if your interviewers are talking about the topic and not giving any concrete examples of inclusive changes they are implementing.

You can follow up this question by asking how their recruitment process promotes diversity, or how the company supports working parents or colleagues with disabilities.

Can I speak to some of my potential peers?

Having a broader view of the organization than the small window offered by the interview process will give you a much richer view of the soul of the company. The hiring manager, assuming he has some level of training, should be reasonably good at selling the virtues of the company.

The five preceding questions will constitute a significant challenge for this varnish and will allow to have a more faithful image of the organization. But the ability to engage with others will add a lot more.

And if the business accedes to your request, what should you ask for? Simple, repeat questions one to five.

By Mark Ashworth

Mark Ashworth is the COO and CFO of Virti, an augmented and virtual reality training platform for employees.